The Halam community are various tribes native to the state of Tripura in India. The name Halam was coined by the Tipra Maharaja.[1] As per their oral tradition they called themselves "Riam", which literally means "Human being". And lyrically they also call themselves "Riamrai, Chepvon, Reivon, Longvon etc.". The Halam are further divided into 12 sub-tribes, namely Sakachep, Chorei, Molsom, Hrangkhol, Kaipeng, Kalai, Ranglong, Thangachep, Bongcher, Korbwng, Dab and Rupini.

Halam
(Riam/Khurmi, Old Kuki)
Total population
58,000(approx.)
Regions with significant populations
India
Tripura
Bangladesh
Languages
Chorei • Kaipeng · Molsom · Ranglong · Hrangkhol · Sakachep · Bawng · Saimar language · Dab
Religion
Christianity · Hinduism · Animism
Related ethnic groups
Chin · Kuki · Mizo

History

In terms of ethnology and language, the Halam community group belongs to Old Kuki groups. But it is difficult to trace their original settlement. Different scholars propounded different theories in analyzing the migratory route of Halam. However, no anthropological research documents are available about them. According to their own belief and tradition the Halam originated from a place called ‘Khurpuitabum’ meaning ‘a big cave,’ which is supposed to be somewhere in south central China. This theory of origin is very common among the Chin-Mizo-Kuki groups with slight variations in name. Apart from Halam group, the Old Kuki tribes like Chorei, Khelma/Sakachep,Aimol, Ranglong, Hrangkhol inhabit in the Karimganj district of Assam, North Tripura and Dalai district of Tripura and Mizoram, Anal, Chawthe, Chiru, Koren, Kom, Lamgang, Purum, Tikhup and Vaiphei of Manipur also asserted that they are the descendant of a couple who came out of ‘Khurpui’ meaning ‘cave’ (B. Lalthangliana, 2001, Mizo Chanchin, Remkungi, Aizawl, p. 37)

According to S.B.K. Dev Varman, the Halam community coined by Tipra Maharaja (S.B.K. Dev Varman, The Tribes of Tripura, p. 35). The Halams group are said to be migrated from ‘Khurpuitabum,’ a place in the hills just to the north of Manipur (Ibid. p. 35). Those of the Kukis, who had submitted to the Tripura Raja, came to be known as Halam (http://www.tripuratribes.ac.in).

Regarding the origin of the term ‘Halam,’ some suggest that ‘Halam’ means ‘killer of human beings’ (K.S. Singh, People of India, Vol. V, p. 1243). Perhaps, the neighboring people might name them ‘Halam’ as they were ferocious and used to killed strangers in olden days. The term ‘Halam’ is expected to be coined by others. One interpretation is that, in Tripuri language, ‘Ha’ means ‘earth’ and ‘Lam’ means ‘route’. So it means ‘earth route.’ It is said that when they came in contact with the king of Tripura, the Maharaja had given them the title ‘Halam.’ From this definition, it can be presumed that Halam migrated to their present place of settlement through earth route. However, there is no agreed point on the origin of the term ‘Halam.’ In the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes orders (Amendment) Act. 1976, Halam is placed at No. 6 in the list of Scheduled Tribes of Tripura.

Changes in religious practices

Conversion to Christianity started about the mid-1900s.[citation needed] About 30% of the Halam are Christians.[citation needed] The spread of Christianity among the Halam does not interfere with cultural activities (except religious activities). The Christian Halam attended the socio-cultural ceremonies of their Hindu neighbors. They participate in and depend on the traditional village administration as do their Hindu neighbors. There is a reason why the Tripura Raja differentiate Halam from Kuki, Halam people do not have king or chief nor their own god to worship. So, the Raja appointed Sordar to rule Halam people, and an idol for each clan to worship. E.g. Mualţhuam/Molsom sub-tribe are given an idol made from Gooseberry tree, they called Zobawmthang.[2] Bawngcher sub-clan are given Thirlum Thirphrai. Thirlum is an iron ball smaller than the size of cricket ball, Thirphrai is an iron plate, a size of thumb. Both have no inscriptions on them.[3]

Diaspora

During the British Raj, the Halam of Tripura were transported to the Sylhet region to work in tea plantations. They can still be found in Sylhet and Habiganj,where they continue this livelihood. They make up a mere population of only 5000. Use of the Kokborok language is rapidly decreasing with the Bengali language being more common nowadays. They are divided into 12 clans; Machafang, Migli, Chorei, Bongcher, Hrangkhol, Molsom, Rupini, Mitahar, Langkai, Ranglong and Kaipeng.[4]

References

  1. ^ Varman, S.B.K.: The Tribes of Tripura – A dissertation. Gov't Press. Agartala. Directorate of Research. 1986. 2nd Edition. p. 25.
  2. ^ Lalthangliana, B.: History and Culture of Mizo in India, Burma & Bangladesh. 2001. Aizawl. RTM Press. p. 85.
  3. ^ Sailiana Sailo: The Bongchers. p. 27.
  4. ^ Jengcham, Subhash. "Halam". Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.